What If I Am in a Dispute?

What is the difference between litigation (going to court) and arbitration and mediation?

MEDIATION ARBITRATION LITIGATION
A mediator helps the parties make their own agreement. An arbitrator hears from the parties and makes the final decision. A judge makes the final decision.
Mediation is the least formal process. Arbitration is less formal than court. Court is the most formal process.
A mediation can be scheduled for any length of time on any date that all parties and the mediator are available. A schedule for proceeding with various steps for an arbitration can be agreed to by the parties and the arbitrator. There are various stages to a lawsuit. Moving forward depends on available dates in court (which are limited) and all parties and lawyers being available on those limited available dates.
There are no formal rules for how a mediation must proceed. A good mediator adapts to the format that best suits the parties and the problem. Arbitration process has formal rules but the parties can decide which rules will apply. The court process has technical and strict rules. These can be difficult to navigate if you are not a lawyer.
The parties agree on who the mediator will be based on whatever qualities they want in a mediator. The parties agree on who the arbitrator will be based on whatever qualities they want in an arbitrator. The court assigns a judge to decide the dispute. No one tells the parties precisely how the judge was selected. Judges are human beings and, like all human beings, they bring their life experiences, views, beliefs and understandings wherever they go. This can work for or against you in court.
The mediation process is completely private. You can speak freely and informally. In an arbitration there may be documents exchanged between the parties and a hearing with witnesses but the process is private. In court proceedings the dispute, the names of the parties, documents filed, witness testimony, virtually everything is public and anyone can access it.
Parties can agree to take their dispute to mediation at any time, even after a dispute arises and even without a written agreement. Parties can agree to take their dispute to arbitration at any time, even after the dispute arises and even without a written agreement. Anyone can start a lawsuit in court against another person or company.
Normally the least expensive and costs are shared by the parties. The parties pay equally for the arbitration service but the successful party usually recovers 100% of its’ legal expenses. Normally the successful party recovers 20-40% of its’ actual legal expenses.
*the above are all general statements and views to give an initial general understanding. There may be exceptions in particular circumstances or additional information depending on the nature of a particular dispute.

How do I get to arbitration or mediation?

Parties to a dispute can agree at any time to submit their dispute to arbitration or mediation. You don’t need any prior written agreement.

Do I need to have a lawyer for arbitration or mediation?

No lawyers required.

The arbitration process is more formal and having a lawyer for that process can be useful, depending on the type of dispute and how complex it is.

The mediation process is the least formal, having a lawyer can help but if all you really need is some support in going through the process you may choose to bring another appropriate person with you who will give you support in whatever way suits you best.